NVIDIA's GeForce 9800 GX2 - Early Test!

The 9800 GX2 has shown up on our doorstep and Shane thought it was time to take it for a ride through XP and Vista.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Fri, Mar 14 2008 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:04 PM CST
Manufacturer: none

Introduction





The latest in stalker letters is here, and it comes attached with another NVIDIA graphics card like our last. If you recall last time this happened, we received the 8800GTS G92 based card anonymously with a letter attached to it. This time we've got another new card and accompanying letter.

Again, it's an NVIDIA offering, but the message was a little different this time, a little scarier. Someone wants us to have the new NVIDIA cards, but at the same time that person or company doesn't want us to know who they are!



Really, we're not complaining and as long as nothing like a horse's head shows up in my bed then I'm not too concerned.

We've all heard about the GX2, so there isn't much to say here; there's no package so we'll get stuck straight into the card and talk about its specifications before we get into the benchmarking.

The Card




Without the shroud to cover the card we can see that the card looks like the back of any normal graphics card. Both sides look almost identical with only a few things making them slightly different from each other.





The main difference between the two sides is that one carries with it an SLI connector and PCI Express connector while the other has neither.





Towards the back of the card you can see the hole on each side where the fans pull air from.



If we hover above the card and look down we can see the design of the heatsink and the fins where the air comes out. The whole design actually looks great, but we worry that the shroud over the top is just going to enhance any heat issues.





Across the top we can also see the SLI connector located on one of the cards along with two power connectors. One card has a single 6-pin PCI Express connector while the second card carries with it an 8-pin PCI Express Connector.

The I/O department carries with it two Dual Link DVI connectors, with one being on each PCB along with a single HDMI connector. This one doesn't carry an optical port like we've seen in some of the reference pictures. We figure this is an optional extra that partners can choose to add.


Specifications

As you would expect, the details on GPU-Z are a bit scarce; it was unable to get details on most specifics of the card. What it does tell us though is that we have a 600MHz core clock, 1500MHz shader clock and 2000MHz DDR clock on the memory.



Other specs include 1GB of GDDR3 memory split across the two PCBs, 65nm cores, 256-bit memory interface per core, 128 stream processors per core, PCI-E 2.0 support, Direct X 10, SM 4.0 and support for SLI (Quad Core) coming at the end of March.

Specifications wise, it's nothing more than something between the G92 based 8800GT and 8800GTS.

Test System Setup and 3DMark06


Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 3GHz (333MHz x 9)
Cooling: Corsair Nautilus500 (Supplied by Corsair) with Arctic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound (Supplied by Arctic Cooling)
Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE X48-DQ6 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 2 X 1GB Kingston PC6400 DDR-2 3-3-3-10 (KHX6400D2ULK2/2G) (Supplied by Kingston)
Hard Disk(s): Seagate 250GB 7200RPM SATA-2 7200.10 (Supplied by Seagate)
Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista
Drivers: Catalyst 8.3, Forceware 169.25, Forceware 171.16, GX2 Forceware Beta 173.67

The main thing to compare here today is the performance of the 9800GX2 against the HD 3870 X2 from AMD. We've also thrown in the 8800GT, as the specifications on a single core of a 9800GX2 is only slightly above that of an 8800GT, this should mean that if a game doesn't take advantage of SLI then the performance should only be just above the single 8800GT.

We've tested our standard resolutions purely for consistency, but once we've completed it we will sit back and evaluate the scores to see if it's worth going to the next level. If we get barely playable scores with decent settings at 1920 x 1200, then what's the point of testing it at 2560 x 1600 when we know it's not going to be playable at all? - The fact that the GX2 can get an average of 20FPS Vs. a HD 3870 X2 getting an average of 18FPS doesn't really prove anything.


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here





3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.




In our first test we can see performance from the GX2 is very close to that of the X2. At the higher resolutions you can see the large gains over the G92 based 8800GT.

Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea


PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Developer Homepage: http://en.akella.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.pt-boats.net/





PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.

Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.






Under PT Boats, while we see the GX2 performing similar to the HD 3870 X2 in the average department, when you look at the minimum FPS score you can see the GX2 has a good lead over the other cards at the higher resolutions.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10


CINEBENCH R10

Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net




CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).




We can see CINEBENCH shows us nothing spectacular with performance actually being the worst out of all the cards tested.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Episode Two HDR)


Half Life 2 (Episode Two HDR)

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest from Steam
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.com
Buy It Here





By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism, responsiveness and new HDR technology, Half-Life 2 Episode Two opens the door to a world where the player's presence affects everything around him, from the physical environment to the behaviors even the emotions of both friends and enemies.

We benchmark Half Life 2 Episode Two with our own custom timedemos as to avoid possible driver optimizations using the "record demo_name" command and loading the timedemo with the "timedemo demo_name" command - For a full list of the commands, click here.




While we can see at the higher resolution the GX2 shows big gains over the 8800GT, it still lags behind the HD 3870 X2 across all resolutions.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict


World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com





World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.

The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.






Here we can see the GX2 has some decent gains over the HD 3870 X2. The best gains are seen at the lower resolution, but as we climb up the two cards sit quite close together. We can see that there are some good gains over the 8800GT.

Benchmarks - Enemy Territory: Quake Wars


Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Version
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demo
Developer Homepage: http://www.splashdamage.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.enemyterritory.com/





Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is the latest Quake incarnation to make it out of the iD labs and carries with it a fast paced experience that manages to place a good amount of strain on your graphics card.

We use a custom made time demo which shows a bit of everything and manages to give us a good solid benchmark for the graphics cards that we test.




While our OpenGL CINEBENCH benchmark showed nothing in favor of the GX2, Enemy Territory (also based on OpenGL) sees some good gains at the higher resolution.

Benchmarks - Crysis


Crysis

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demo
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/
Buy It Here





From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.

Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE 2 offers. The CryENGINE 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE 2 Sandbox world editing system.

NB: Due to the way that Crysis offers which resolutions you can select, some cards may not be tested at 1920 x 1200 and beyond.



Here we can see at the lower resolution we get some decent gains over the HD 3870 X2, but very small gains over the 8800GT are seen. As we climb up to the higher resolutions the GX2 shows considerable gains over the 8800GT at 1920 x 1200.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3


Unreal Tournament 3

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used:
Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/
Buy It Here





Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.




At the lowest resolution we can see that the GX2 is coming out ahead of the X2, but the numbers are so high that it doesn't really matter. We can see as we start going up that it lags behind the X2, but still shows good gains over the single 8800GT.

High Quality AA and AF




Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.


3DMark06



When you turn on AA there's no surprise that the GX2 sneaks ahead of the X2. We see good gains compared to the 8800GT as well, which isn't of any real surprise as 3DMark06 makes good use of multiple GPUs.


Half Life 2 (Episode Two HDR)



We can see under Episode Two that the AMD offering comes out ahead.


World In Conflict





WIC with AA and AF shows very little difference unlike our non AA and AF tests.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06 - XP


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here





3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.




When we move to Windows XP we can actually see the GX2 coming out ahead of the X2 at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10 - XP


CINEBENCH R10

Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net




CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).




We continue to see no gains under CINEBENCH with the GX2 actually performing at the back of the pack.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict - XP


World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com




World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.

The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.





Here we can see performance between the X2 and the GX2 is almost identical. The GX2 gains over the 8800GT can only be seen at the highest resolution.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3 - XP


Unreal Tournament 3

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used:
Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/
Buy It Here





Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.




Unlike Windows Vista, we see considerable gains over the X2 here. HUGE gains over the 8800GT are also seen at the highest resolution. This is the first sign of the GX2 that gives us any real faith in the product.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Episode Two HDR) - XP


Half Life 2 (Episode Two HDR)

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest from Steam
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.com
Buy It Here





By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism, responsiveness and new HDR technology, Half-Life 2 Episode Two opens the door to a world where the player's presence affects everything around him, from the physical environment to the behaviors even the emotions of both friends and enemies.

We benchmark Half Life 2 Episode Two with our own custom timedemos as to avoid possible driver optimizations using the "record demo_name" command and loading the timedemo with the "timedemo demo_name" command - For a full list of the commands, click here.



Half Life 2 under XP also sees much better results. Big gains over the 8800GT at the higher resolutions can be witnessed here, and there's a decent gap between the X2 and GX2.

Temperature and Sound Tests


Temperature Tests



With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).

There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.




The temperature on the card isn't bad without the shroud. With it on however, we think will be a different story.


Sound Tests



Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).




Noise levels are also pretty standard for such a high-end card. The shroud should actually make it a little quieter.

Power Consumption Tests






Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.




Power usage at load comes in under the X2, but as you would expect, it's considerably higher than the single 8800GT. It manages to carry with it the highest idle wattage as well.

Final Thoughts




I have to say that until we got to our Windows XP tests, the 9800GX2 has been a complete let down. Under UT3 it actually looks like we have a CPU bottleneck with performance pretty much the same across all resolutions.

It out-performs the HD 3870 X2 in 3DMark06 under XP, along with it also out-performing the AMD counterpart in Half Life 2: Episode Two; a game that has always favored the AMD offerings.

Come launch day, I'm not too sure if this is going to be a card worth picking up. While we see gains under XP, not everything sees the same success like UT3 and HL2:E2. There has to be a new driver coming out soon. Websites have posted a newer driver than the one we received on the driver CD, but it doesn't actually work. It refuses to install even though the driver is stated to be for the GX2.

The card has potential, and we can see it's got the power in some applications. It just needs to be harnessed better. If you had been reading the reviews online and thought "Bugger this, I'm off to get a HD 3870 X2", we would hold off, at least for a week or two.

As soon as word of a new driver comes out, we will be placing the card back on the test bench to hopefully get the gains that we expected.

At the moment the card doesn't deserve to carry a new generation naming scheme, but with a little bit of hope seen from under Windows XP we could be alright. Now we just have to wait and see if we get a new driver in the next day or two.

Last minute add: I just performed a run of Unreal Tournament 3 at 2560 x 1600 and received an average of 90.66FPS which is just below what the HD 3870 X2 scores at 1920 x 1200.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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